Thursday, April 30, 2015

O tempura, O morays

American culture has always rated Youth too highly, other parents have always over-indulged their children, and this dotage has always been reaching an unprecedented level. Thus it has always been, so the basic precepts of Burkean conservatism decree that it will always remain thus in the future.

Ha ha silly Uncle Smut! Have you been at the Rosehip-&-Nightshade parsnip scrumpy again?

To shut the pieholes, disrespectful whippersnappers. It contains vitamins and everything for health. Also, if one's parents criticised their contemporaries for sloppy permissive parenting, while one's grandparents were critical of parenting practices in their generation, then it is TRADITION.

It also contains the bones of small animals.

The parsnip scrumpy? Filtering it ruins the flavour. Now give me back my ear-trumpet and I will tell you a story.

We struggle to conceal our enthusiasm.
Via Yastreblansky, here's Randall Jarrell with a few words from 'Pictures from an Institution' (1954). The character of Irene Rosenbaum is a satire on bumptious numpties who open their faceholes and let the facile uninformed generalisations fall out.
A conservative columnist and 1960s revanchist whom we shall address as GFW somehow fell under a contractual obligation or geas to cite the book at decade intervals.

He should have read the fine print in his Faustian bargain.

Indeed he should have. Don't interrupt.

Sorry Uncle Smut.

Starting in 1980, in a syndicated Summer reading list, the book was a "wickedly funny dissection of contemporary liberalism".

In 1991, GFW turned the opportunity of a book review into a stalking horse to bring his rhetorical flamethrower to bear upon the strawman of Liberal Juvenophilia.

Is that enough metaphors? 

The task of shoehorning additional ones into the sentence is left as an exercise for the reader. This time it was convenient for GFW's purpose to endorse Irene's ill-observed opinions as if they were Jarrell's own aperçus:
Ellis in his way, and Morrison in his, illustrate a particular fate for certain youths. In Randall Jarrell's novel "Pictures from an Institution" a foreign visitor says, "You Americans do not rear children, you incite them; you give them food and shelter and applause." The problem is juvenophilia.
Why are conservative columnists so down on Juvenal when they are always extolling the virtues of Martial ?

The aesthetic rankings of Roman poets is a mystery beyond our ken.
The "inciting children" line appears again in a 2000 column which GFW palmed off on Newsweek, but by this time it served as a generic indictment of the Culture; parental indulgence as a synecdoche for liberalism required no clarification, for it had become an automatic nervous tic. The column is literally a remix of the 1980 reading list, because Newsweek won't care.
August, the last month before the academic follies begin again, is when to read Randall Jarrell's "Pictures From an Institution" (1954). It is a hilarious--and, alas, timeless--portrait of campus culture ("they longed for men to be discovered on the moon, so that they could show that they weren't prejudiced toward moon men") and liberalism generally ("You Americans do not rear children, you incite them; you give them food and shelter and applause").
GFW's views on Juvenophilia are shared by a second salaried opinionator and Christopher Lasch impersonator 'DB', to whom our attention rolls now, much in the manner of the poet's eye. DB also believes in the damage wrought by excessive parental love (his Thanksgiving family reunions are fraught with tight-lipped silences). He believes in the importance of Mawwiage, Twoo wuv, both as economic asset and as totem of moral orthodoxy; such is DB's dedication to Mawwiage that he recently divorced from his wife and freed them both to bring other people into that desirable condition. More to the point, it turns out that DB is also a victim of the geas, forcing him to write as follows:
There are two great defining features of child-rearing today. First, children are now praised to an unprecedented degree. As Dorothy Parker once joked, American children aren’t raised; they are incited. They are given food, shelter and applause. That’s a thousand times more true today. Children are incessantly told how special they are.
Rosenbaum's blather about excessive praise for children 60 years ago has been repurposed as precedent and proof of the assertion that current levels of praise are even unprecedentedly higher.

Never mind that, Uncle Smut; how did Jarrell's words get put through the Voice Empassiviser for extra flaccidity --

-- Flaccor.

Flaccor is not a word. And then put in the mouth of Dorothy Parker?

I'm glad you asked me that. It turns out that DB is plagiarising the work of one DB, a decade earlier:
Yastreblansky has a theory for how DB originally came by the misattribution which has remained ever since on his "Great Quotations" collection of fridge poetry magnets, beyond the reach of fact-checking or correction. Or perhaps it's a geas.

As a way of paying homage to the Ouroborean self-plagiarism self-sufficiency, the intellectual Biosphere 2 that American conservative thought has become, this post is a recycled version of Yastreblansky's inquiries, and of blog comments here and here.

9 comments:

rurritable said...

If you want to know what God thinks of George Will, just look at the network he gave him to.
-Dorothy Parker

I'm beginning to think all these guys wind up like Kingsley Amis, dead drunk by lunchtime every day for a good twenty years before they die, and dying convinced they're in hell. It's a comforting thought.

mistah charley, ph.d. said...

george will's name overlaps with will rogers, who never bothered to say, "we are all apathetic - just on different subjects"

Emma said...

As the only human alive who has ever voluntarily read Randall Jarrell's 'Pictures From an Institution' (it was years ago; all I can really remember about it is that one character was described as having a plate of kippers instead of a face, and another character -- perhaps the one from whom Brooks is plagiarizing -- went into the university's modernist sculpture gallery and asked an artist how she got her pieces so shiny, why, you could practically see yourself in them!), I would like to stipulate that these stooges are calling the book out of its name. Do they really think the man who wrote 'The Death of the Ball-Turret Gunner' was a conservative?

'Pictures From an Institution' is over-written and obtuse, as I recall, but it isn't about liberalism so much as a culture in which thought is replaced by endless simulations of understanding. Which, you know, I'm sure David Brooks and George Eff Will wouldn't know anything about that, haha!!! HAHAHA.

(I really don't think they would. Not even kidding.)

rurritable said...

it isn't about liberalism so much as a culture in which thought is replaced by endless simulations of understanding

I always wondered if Randall threw himself in front of a car in Chapel Hill because of that town's sometimes insufferable middlebrow consumerist dumpth.

That, plus PTSD, chronic depression and being wrung out.

Yastreblyansky said...

On a more trivial note, Jumping Jack Flash, it's a geas, geas, geas. And to Emma, on whether David Eff Brooks and George Eff Will (it was also William Eff Buckley, Jr., what is it about that initial?) know anything about endless simulations of understanding,

You don't ask an elephant to teach zoology.
--Dorothy Parker

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Toupee, or not toopee?

Gotta go!

- George Eff will
~

Smut Clyde said...

I was not previously acquainted with G.F.Will except as a term of obloquy, but I glanced over some of his oeuvre while checking out this word "juvenophilia". The search led me to such nuggets of wisdom as his review of Perlstein's "Nixonland", which said very little about the book, preferring to go on about the horrors of the 1960s / 70s counterculture (with the implication that Nixon and his political strategies were really not so bad when one considers the alternative). He seems to have built a career out of hating the 70s. I assume that he missed out on the free love.

Between Will and Brooks, the general acceptance of slovenliness and schweinerei continues to amaze me (though I don't know if Will is as shameless about fabricating citations as Brooks seems to be). Perhaps there needs to be more public shaming for intellectual fraud.

Yastreblyansky said...

George Will was pretty much the David Brooks of the 1970s, the conservative who bourgeois liberals affected to respect because he appeared civilized. It is incredible to me to realize that he is still alive and typing, as he appeared to be around 110 then, with his little bowtie and fustian vocabulary. In a manner of speaking he has actually been dead for decades.

Smut Clyde said...

Karl Kraus he isn't.